I think what makes Christmas so special in addition to the birth of our Lord and Savior, are the traditions that families and cultures all over the world do to celebrate Christmas. There are many times I can’t even remember what toys or gadgets I received as Christmas gifts as a child, but I do remember the excitement, joy and love of our Christmas traditions. These memories are some of my most cherished, and I’m so grateful to have been blessed with such amazing experiences.
How it started
I'm the youngest of 7 children, but the age gap between many of my siblings is very large. My oldest three sibling are 20, 19, &18 years older than me, so when I was a child many of my siblings were married and starting to have children! By the time I was 10 years old, our family had grown to include my nieces and nephews, so our house for Christmas was always a very large party even though it was mainly immediate family. My parents were very hard-working people who immigrated from Mexico, became U.S citizens, and started a family construction business. They made sure we were raised with faith, and that family time was a priority no matter how busy everyone was.
A Christmas Tradition
One of the traditions my parents passed down to us was Christmas tamales. When they were children in Mexico, this was how they celebrated Christmas dinner, and it was always served on Christmas eve. In Mexico, the recipes for Tamales can vary by region as different parts of Mexico had their own signature tamale recipes. For my parents, the tamales they passed down to us were pork in a red sauce, and coconut “sweet” tamales. Since my family was very large, and we were serving about 30 people every year, my mom would make about 150 tamales! Whatever we didn’t eat, would be frozen and eaten later until they were gone. Making that many tamales involved a team effort, so many of us would help in filling in the prepared masa in the dried corn husks.
Once the tamale feast was over, we would open some presents and then head over to church for midnight mass. On Christmas morning, my father use to love having left over tamales for breakfast especially the sweet coconut ones with some coffee. It didn’t matter as the children got older, this tradition never got old or tired. We all eagerly looked forward to Christmas and spending this wonderful time with family and food. My father passed away two years ago, and he had hoped we continued this tradition for years to come. We have no intention of doing anything else as we hope to pass this down to another generation.
As Christmas is nearing again, I will look forward to this tradition and helping my mom (along with many others) make about 200 tamales this year.
What truly matters
For me, Christmas is so much more than the commercialized giant it’s become. In the center is our faith and the birth of Jesus who gives us eternal life. But it’s also the family time and special traditions no matter how small or big your family is, that are the most cherished. These are the experiences we carry in our memory forever and to me that is bigger than any gift that comes in a package.
Many blessing to you and your family this Christmas season. May it be filled with Christ’s love and wonderful family memories.